A few exhibition games between national teams were played this weekend as the Istanbul Cup and the Love Cyprus Basketball Tournament wrapped with some interesting clashes, indeed.
In Turkey, Team Serbia emphatically demonstrated that they should be discussed among the 2010 FIBA World Championship elite by decisively beating the home team in an 83-70 win. Kerem Tuncer, Omer Onan, Hedo Turkoglu, Semih Erden and Cevher Özer started for Turkey, while Serbia went with Dragan Milosavljevic, Dusko Savanovic, Kosta Perovic, Milos Teodosic, and Marco Keselj.
Though Serbia was cold early, succumbing to an early barrage from Turkoglu and Onan to go down 10-3, they soon got contributions from Perovic and Teodosic to take the lead at 19-17 and finish the first quarter up 27-22.
The second quarter became something of a battle down low as Oguz and Ersan İlyasova looked to neutralize tournament MVP Nenad Krstic, but despite drawing a couple fouls quickly from the big man, Team Turkey saw the Serbian lead widened thanks to some sharpshooting by Novica Velickovic. Krstic reentered the game and got back to his scoring ways, to send Turkey to the locker room down 49-36.
Kerem Gönlüm came out hot in the third quarter with two quick scores, Teodosic was harassed into a couple turnovers, Tuncer woke up to drain three more and Turkey drew to within one at 58-57. Unfortunately for them, Team Serbia broke the game open by starting the final quarter on an 11-0 run, enough to silence the Turks for good and give the tournament win to Serbia.
The game’s high scorer was Krstic at 19 points to go with his seven rebounds and five assists; Teodosic added 16. Turkoglu led all Team Turkey scorers with 14; İlyasova and Gönlüm each contributed 12 points and six rebounds, while Omer Asik was good for seven boards as well.
In the Istanbul Cup third-place game, New Zealand once again relied on shooter Kirk Penney to outlast Iran, 69-68. Though “Penney had been the villain when, with 25 seconds remaining and his team still a point down, he committed his fifth turnover of the game,” he was able to hit the buzzer-beater to complete the All Blacks’ comeback from the opening 9-0 hole.
Concisely summarized the national team’s website: “[the game] shows how far the Kiwis must improve if they hope to qualify out of their pool at Izmir. They squandered several opportunities to seize control of this encounter and had to claw their way back from six points adrift in the final quarter…
“As they had against Turkey the previous night, the Kiwis really set themselves behind the eight ball with eight turnovers in the opening quarter that gifted their opponents nine straight points.”
Memphis Grizzly Hamed Haddadi had a monster game for Team Iran, going for 21 points and 14 rebounds against the Kiwis.
In Cyprus, Team Germany registered a surprising 76-73 win to send the suddenly complacent-looking Russian team home on a continued down note. Germany had entered the game with two consecutive losses in the Love Cyprus Basketball Tournament, but as coach Dirk Bauermann would later say, “We are continuing our positive trend and today again learned a lot.”
Seeking to give Lucca Staiger and Tim Ohlbrecht some rest, Bauermann started with a mostly Who-Dat lineup of Heiko Schaffartzik, Demond Greene, Konrad Wysocki, Elias Harris and Tibor Pleiss. No matter: Germany applied the proverbial tenacious D early, while Harris and Chris McNaughton off the bench extended a 22-10 lead into 31-20.
Though Russia would get as close as four at 37-33, the young Team Germany was able to hold the lead for the remainder of the game, even surviving a game-closing 11-1 run by the Russians to hold on for what is surely a confidence-boosting win.
Said Bauermann: “It is extremely important for our young players to learn what happens at the international level. Jan-Hendrik Jagla was aggressive and Robin Benzing was very strong today, we moved the ball well and made good decisions. In short, we are on the right track.”
Meanwhile, how do you say, “WTF” in Russian?
Last but by no means least, Team Greece completed its demolition of the field in the Love Cyprus tourney by polishing off Croatia, 90-81, behind a huge game from Nick Calathes.
Calathes poured in 22 points and dished out nine assists, feeding quite a few to Antonis Fotsis and his 17. Greece went deep into the bench and rotated the lineup often to rest up some starters, as Team Hellas was able to totally control this game after going up 6-5. After Calathes and Fotsis, going for double figures for the ever more frightening Greeks were Ioannis Bourousis with 13, Kostas Tsartsaris with 12, and Dimitris Diamantidis with 10.
Croatia got nice contributions from starters Roko Ukic, Davor Kus and Bojan Bogdanovic at 19, 14 and 13 points, respectively, but hey: This game was 99% about Greece, right? BiE reckons that folks’d better stop talking about the 2010 FIBA World Championship as Spain-and-USA’s tournament to win or lose and give a little more conversational love to Greece and Serbia in this thing…